The national men's badminton team have been hit by the departure of two senior shuttlers, with singles player Ashton Chen and Terry Yeo, who plays doubles, leaving to pursue studies and a working career respectively.
The OUE Singapore Open, which begins on Tuesday, will be Chen's swansong, while last month's Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold was Yeo's last tournament as a professional.
The double departure comes just days after Singapore earned a spot at next month's Thomas Cup finals, and deals a blow to the Republic's chances at the prestigious world team championships for men. It is the first time since 1986 that the country will feature in the finals.
While Chen and Yeo made their decisions independently, each of them cited plateauing results as the reason.
"I'm now 25 and compared to my peers, I'm behind time," Chen told The Sunday Times yesterday.
"The men's game is very competitive and it's not easy to go up in the rankings. I've been pretty much stuck in that area for a long time."
Currently the world No. 69, Chen reached a career-high ranking of No. 50 and is Singapore's second-ranked singles player behind Derek Wong (No. 47).
He first made headlines in 2007 after beating Malaysia's former world No. 1 Roslin Hashim at the Asian Satellite tournament, and was a member of the teams that took silver at the 2007 SEA Games and bronze at the 2009 and 2011 editions. He also won the third-tier Waikato International in 2007.
The first-year UniSIM business management undergraduate has applied to study business at Singapore Management University.
Yeo, meanwhile, said: "I gave myself some time to try and achieve as much as I could in my badminton career. I feel like I'm not progressing any further.
"I'm calling it a day for professional badminton, but I don't intend to stop playing."
He reached a career high of No. 44 with Liu Yi in the men's doubles and No. 32 with Dellis Yuliana in the mixed doubles, and was also part of the team that won bronze at the 2009 SEA Games.
Said the 25-year-old: "I might not have achieved outstanding results but I did my best and always put my all into training. I can walk out with my head held high.
"Maybe my only regret is that I won't be able to compete at the SEA Games next year in front of a home crowd."
Said SBA chief executive officer Ronnie Lim: "Terry and Ashton are part of our badminton family and we are sad that they are leaving us at the same time... They have both promised to come back and help if necessary, especially with the younger players.
"Losing two players in the lead-up to the Thomas Cup is very unfortunate but we will definitely have sufficient players to fill the team."
This article was published on April 6 in The Straits Times.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.